GIFT-MENA
Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
In 2006, when the initiative emerged, the Arab region was suffering from a governance deficit. Most countries ranked low on the “Voice and Accountability” scale. Though many were able to achieve considerable economic growth, only few were able to move towards increased prosperity and improved governance. According to World Bank indicators, Maghreb and Mashrek countries featured increased economic prosperity with a minor decline in voice and accountability while GCCs and LCDs witnessed limited improvement in economic prosperity but a significant decline in governance indicators. International research also acknowledged that governance was not prioritized by the international community when managing development assistance to the Arab world (D. Kauffmann, Governance and the Arab World Transition, 2011). The governance gap implied that Arab countries were not able to transform their growth and wealth into human development and well-being. Serious divergences were emerging between citizens needs for public services and public institutions supply. Trust in government was eroding, and citizens felt excluded from public decisions. Improving government policies and services required deep-rooted changes and the implementation of institutional reforms that would foster inclusive and sustainable development, including a change in governance systems and practices; a change that only training institutions could help governments conduct in the public sector. Government needed to be more responsive, and the decision-making more transparent. Civil servants needed to acquire new skills and competencies and adhere to values such as the rule of law, accountability, integrity, meritocracy and serving the public interest. Public leadership also needed to be uplifted. Training institutes were operating in the Arab world under the form of “Institutes of Public Administration” (e.g. in Bahrain, Qatar, Sultanate of Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc.), “National Schools of Administration (e.g. in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) and of “Institutes of Finance” (e.g. in Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Iraq, etc.). However, cooperation among these institutions remained limited and exchanges were confined to diplomatic relations. Whereas regional networking among civil service training providers was already in place worldwide since 1961 with the establishment of the International Association of Schools and Institutes of Administration and since the mid-90s in Europe (with the Réseau des Ecoles du Service Public; the Network of Institutes and Schools of Public Administration in Central and Eastern Europe), the Arab world was lagging behind. Networking initiatives targeting the region were driven by donors’ priorities. Learning resources covering good practices were quasi-inexistent in the Arabic language. Capacity building operators were looking for counterparts that would answer their needs and for learning resources that would fit their context and culture. They were looking for a platform to connect to one another and to the world, to find expertise and work together.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The idea to launch a new model of regional cooperation emerged as one of the recommendations of the Forum of Training Schools and Institutes on Governance in the MENA region that was held in Beirut on March 15-16, 2006. As such, the GIFT-MENA Network (Governance Institutes Forum for Training in the Middle East and North Africa) was launched from Beirut and the Secretariat was assigned to the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan of Lebanon. The network is a consortium of schools and institutes specialized in the training of government civil servants in the Mediterranean and Arab region. Regional and international organizations involved in State modernization are partners to the network. To date, the network brings together as members 58 civil service training schools and institutes, in addition to more than 15 partners among regional and international organizations. GIFT-MENA aims at strengthening public sector capacity, in the areas of state modernization, capacity development and governance reform. It acts as a global hub for networking, knowledge dissemination and peer-to-peer learning as drivers of governance across the MENA region. It facilitates the exchange of good practices and promotes dialogue and knowledge-sharing in the Arab world. The network’s objectives are to: 1. Strengthen the institutional capacity of member institutions. 2. Foster dialogue on the modernization of human resources management and share the latest development in civil service reform and capacity development. 3. Optimize the quality, coherence and relevance of the training offer. 4. Enhance the knowledge and skills of middle and senior managers 5. Encourage experience-sharing and cooperation among members and with international centers of excellence. 6. Document and disseminate successful regional experiences pertaining to State modernization. The network builds its activities on successful regional experiences, lessons learned from local reform implementation as well as on international practices and know-how. It is committed to promote values such as diversity, dialogue, excellence and value for money, to work in respect of local cultures, and to use participatory and hands-on approaches. The network has proven to be a successful model of both South-South and triangular cooperation: • By bringing together policy makers and practitioners, the network helped bridge the gap and create a constructive dialogue between the decision-making and implementation strata. • By fostering dialogue on the modernization of human resources management and keeping its members abreast of international practices and benchmarks, it worked to instill a culture of performance, accountability and change across the new generation of public sector leaders and officials. • By building on collective thinking, the network was able to propose innovative and tailor-made solutions to governance challenges in the MENA region and contribute to the State and peace-building agenda. GIFT-MENA is recognized today as a knowledge platform that connects practitioners together, builds institutional bridges and fosters strategic and analytical thinking. Enjoying Southern ownership and decision-making, it was able to evolve smoothly and stay closely connected to its beneficiaries, answering their needs as they evolve. Prior to the creation of GIFT-MENA, exchange mainly focused on political/diplomatic visits. With the GIFT-MENA network, knowledge exchange has evolved into substantive partnerships and Schools’ directors, capacity development experts, practitioners and leaders have found a platform to debate public policies, discuss challenges, share and transfer their countries’ experiences and seek practical solutions together, and with the support of the donor community. The successful practices that are showcased on the occasion of regional programs/meetings and annual conferences are demonstrating the great potential and dynamism of countries of the Arab region in finding solutions to their development challenges.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
1. GIFT-MENA is a South-born initiative that enjoys Southern ownership and decision-making. It is a successful vehicle of bilateral and multilateral cooperation targeting the Arab world. It originated from the genuine effort of people and institutions from the region to share their knowledge and know-how and unite efforts to cope with present and future challenges in the fields of capacity development and State modernization. 2. GIFT-MENA is enjoys a participatory governance model: It is run by a Steering Committee composed of 5 representatives of member institutions exclusively from the Arab world, elected by institutional members of the Network. 3. GIFT-MENA is demand-driven: The network remained closely connected to its beneficiaries, and worked continuously on understating and keeping pace with their present and prospective needs. Offering services and programs in the Arabic language, GIFT-MENA was able to combine international expertise and a wealth of practical experience from across the MENA region. It also privileges hands-on, participant-centered approaches to training activities, customizing all materials to the region’s challenges and trends. 4. The network has worked towards creating islands of excellence within the public sector that can transfer knowledge, help replicate their model and create a multiplier effect across the public sector.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Set-up phase: 2006-2008 Following the network launch in March 2006, a first steering committee was formed and endowed with the responsibility to coordinate the design and implementation of the first training activities and to set a work plan and milestones for the network’s development. The committee held its first meeting in June 2006, in Granada, Spain to discuss progress, potential funding as well as prospects of enlargement. It met again in January 2007 in Amman, Jordan. The committee worked with local and international consultants to develop the Network’s Convention and Bylaws, to design the network’s graphic identity and to produce a brochure and the First Directory of Public Service Training Institutes in MENA. It also organized a Regional Training of Trainers program on performance budgeting in Rabat, Morocco. In June 2008, the First General Assembly/Annual Network Meeting was held in Paris, under the theme "Joining hands for a better public service". The meeting witnessed the ratification of the Convention and Bylaws, the official appointment of the Institute of Finance of Lebanon as the permanent Secretariat of the Network and the election of a new steering committee. Shortly after, in November 2008, the newly elected committee met in Beirut to elaboration a vision, strategy and a medium-term action plan for the network. Development phase: 2009-2014 As of 2009, members and partners started meeting regularly on the occasion of the Annual Network Meeting and the Conference (listed below): • Leadership in MENA Civil Service: Challenges of Competence and Confidence Building (Beirut, 2009) • Public Financial Management in MENA: Reforming for Results at a Time of Crisis (Beirut, 2010) • Rethinking Training in the Public Sector (Beirut, 2011) • Training and Cooperation for Change in the MENA region (Tunis, 2012) • Human Capital Formation in the Public Sector and the Challenge of building the State in times of crisis (Kuwait, 2014) Each year, on the occasion of the Annual Network Meeting, a two-year action plan is agreed upon with members. The plan is built on three pillars: 1. Pillar 1: Capacity development and Technical Assistance, including: a. Study tours and institutional visits by regional delegations to centers of excellence in the areas of capacity development, training and governance reform in the Arab world. b. Bilateral exchanges in the forms of study visits between two member institutions. c. The organization of regional training seminars d. Exchange of trainers: Member institutions send a request to the Secretariat soliciting the expertise of Arabic-speaking trainers on a particular topic of interest. e. Technical assistance services: The Secretariat provides, in partnership with an international partner (e.g. ADETEF) technical assistance services to Ministries of Finance wishing to establish training institutes across the Arab world or to public institutions wishing to strengthen their capacities in learning and training engineering. 2. Pillar 2: Partnerships and Networking: a. Annual meetings and conferences b. Participation to international and regional conferences c. Signature of Memorandum of Understanding 3. Pillar 3: Publication and Knowledge Production that includes the production of reports, briefs, papers and selected publications on topics of interest to the network. The Secretariat coordinates the design, organization, implementation and follow-up of each activity. Every year, the plan is fine-tuned according to achievements and results of the past year. In parallel to the yearly offer, on-demand requests for specific training programs, bilateral study visits and technical assistance are shared with the Secretariat that answers accordingly. A number of bilateral exchange activities are also regularly organized between network institutions without involving the Secretariat, and often result in the signature of Memoranda of Understanding.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The GIFT-MENA Network was launched at the initiative of the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan of Lebanon, and with the initial support of the World Bank and the Agency for International Technical Cooperation of the Ministries of Economy, Finance and Sustainable Development of France- ADETEF. Seven MENA Government training institutions, two regional organizations and ten European and international organizations endorsed the initial project, in March 2006. In 2014, the network brings together 58 member institutions (i.e. civil service training schools and institutes in MENA, as well as Government agencies and/or ministerial divisions, which include training government civil servants as part of their mission in the MENA region) from 19 Arab countries in addition to 17 associate members (i.e. International and regional organizations, Euro-Mediterranean civil service training schools, institutes, organizations, government agencies and/or ministerial divisions, and Global networks of universities, institutions or individuals involved in training and/or capacity building, public administration and governance or that provide technical assistance for State modernization in MENA). The Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan is the permanent Secretariat of the Network. It coordinates the design, organization, implementation and follow-up of network activities. The Network’s Steering Committee is elected every two years on the occasion of the Annual Meeting. It meets once a year to discuss, formulate and subsequently recommend to the General Assembly major policies, strategies, and actions providing overall direction to the network and set strategic orientations. For the period 2012-2014, the Steering Committee is composed of: 1. The Bahrain Institute of Public Administration (BIPA) 2. The Public Finance Training Center (PFTC) at the Ministry of Finance of Jordan 3. The Ministry of Finance of Palestine 4. The National School of Finance of Tunis 5. The Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan of Lebanon (Secretariat)
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The network is financed through grants awarded by international organizations, as well as by members’ in-kind contributions and the co-financing of activities and events. The Institut has been housing the Secretariat of the network since 2006, mobilizing staff time and in-kind contribution to run operations. The World Bank provided technical and financial support to the establishment and initial development of the network (2006-2008), including the organization of the two first steering committee meeting, the development of a first online platform, the elaboration of the convention and bylaws and the creation of the graphic identity. It also contributed through Trust Funds directly managed by the Bank to the joint organization of learning and training events during the period 2007-2014. As of January 2011, the French Treasury awarded a 450,000 Euros grant to the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan over four years for the development of the GIFT-MENA network. In January 2014, the Ministry of Civil Service and Decentralization pledged an additional fund of 50,000 Euros for 2015. The Islamic Development Fund made two small grants to the organization of regional training programs specialized in public financial management and addressed to middle and senior public managers in the Arab world in 2011 and 2012. The Arab Planning Institute has also contributed to the organization of two annual conferences by sponsoring the participation of senior officials from Arab countries and has hosted one the 2014 Annual Conference and Meeting. Network members also made punctual and in-kind contribution to the joint organization and hosting of the network’s activities.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The five below outputs contributed to the success of the GIFT-MENA initiative at many levels: 1. The ratification, since 2007, of 8 bilateral memorandum of understanding among network members, reflecting the growing collaboration and bilateral exchange between public sector training operators in the Arab world. These agreements provide an institutional framework for cooperation in the form of the joint organization of learning events, the exchange of trainers and trainees and the dissemination of relevant experiences, data, and publications; or the elaboration of joint learning projects. 2. Support to regional dialogue at policy and technical levels: More than 465 decision-makers, practitioners and subject-matter experts have participated to the network annual meetings and conferences: Beirut (2006, 2009, 2010, 2011), Paris (2008), Tunis (2012) and Kuwait (2014). In addition to more than 200 experts and practitioners taking part to regional workshops and seminars, jointly organized across the region and with the collaboration of regional and international partners such as the World Bank, ADETEF and the Islamic Development Bank. 3. Leadership building in the public sector for Policy Design and Implementation: Specialized training programs focusing on reform and modernization and transforming lessons learned from international experiences into useful practices, norms and standards were devised and offered to the region through a curriculum of 6 training modules specialized in Public Financial Management. Programs covered budget preparation, budget execution, government accounting, audit and control, public procurement and strategic procurement. They are available in the Arabic language. 4. More than bilingual 20,000 publications were printed and distributed (In the Arabic and English languages), including reference guides, conference proceedings and thematic reports. 5. The Secretariat has hosted 20 Arab delegations at its premised in Beirut. Visiting delegations were coming from Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Palestine, Morocco and Libya. These delegations were interested in the set-up and operations of a Government training center and in the development of their training tools and policies. The Secretariat also provided technical assistance services, in collaboration with ADETEF, to the establishment of two institutes of Finance in Jordan and Palestine.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Various tools were developed and used to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the strategy: 1. Individual evaluation forms: Following each network activity, participants are asked to fill in an anonymous individual satisfaction form, designed to assess direct learning/knowledge outcomes and the pertinence of the activity, to identify areas for improvement and to provide suggestions for future activities. 2. Yearly meetings: On the occasion of the Annual Meeting, the Secretariat briefs members on the progress and achievements made since the last Meeting. The overview includes developments related to the network's activities, new members, financial resources and management. Members are solicited to present their most recent initiatives pertaining to capacity development, to share prospects of cooperation, to review and comment on the suggested initiatives and to propose new ideas and activities to be included in the upcoming calendar, in accordance with their priorities and needs. 3. A satisfaction survey questionnaire was distributed in January 2014 to main beneficiaries of the network’s programs. It aimed to assess their degree of satisfaction as well as the extent to which the network is meeting its objectives, the effectiveness of communication with member institutions and to gather suggestions and assess needs for the period 2014-2015. Results did not reach a critical number to be generalized but the overall feedback was positive. Main suggestions proposed to maintain the provision of high-quality training modules to sustain knowledge transfer and change management, to intensify peer-to-peer exchanges on the occasion of study visits, to support the publication and dissemination of evidence-based papers focusing on good practices and success stories from the region, to promote the role of the network as a hub for capacity-building in the MENA region and to achieve financial autonomy. 4. A strategic review of the network is to be conducted in 2015-2016, on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Network: It shall consist of international technical assistance aiming to review and develop the network’s role, positioning and governance structure, and provide recommendations to reinforce its institutional development and sustainability. The strategic review shall be conducted based on extensive consultations with member institutions, partners, and beneficiaries.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
• With the launch of the GIFT-MENA network, institutional cooperation and openness across public sector institutions in the areas of governance and state modernization were a break away from traditional models of collaborating in the Arab region. At first, collaboration between members remained hesitant. However, the participatory governance approach promoted by the network as well as its “Southern” identity and the benefits of experience-sharing have played a major role in stimulating regional cooperation. • Limited financial and human capacity was a major challenge for the network. Since 2006, programs have been financed through small grants by international organizations or in-kind contributions by member institutions. The Secretariat has been funded by the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan and more recently with the support of ADETEF (2010-2014). Shortages in human capacities were primarily linked to the limited financial resources made available to the network. For sustainability, the network is working to devise a strategy for financial autonomy. • Since 2011, many countries of the MENA region have started witnessing political instability which has forced the network to perform in a largely unstable environment. When government priorities are focusing on peace-building, reconstruction, dealing with political deadlocks and refugees’ crisis, fighting terrorism and containing social unrests, the network is striving to convince Arab donors and policy makers of the importance of cooperation, partnership building and capacity building to serve their goals, strengthen State institutions and achieve peace-building. In this context of instability, the Secretariat encouraged the delocalization of activities to countries that enjoy more stability (e.g. Jordan, Tunis, Kuwait, etc.). It maintained an open and constructive dialogue with policy-makers and the donor community to try to align the GIFT-MENA action plan to the policy agendas of member countries and create synergies between national reform plans, regional technical assistance and capacity development.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
GIFT-MENA has proved to be reasonably effective in delivering results, earning legitimacy, and forging resilience of public sector training institutions in an unstable and challenging context in the Arab world (following the Arab Springs, 2011). The network was able to maintain a regular calendar of activities at a time when many member countries are still facing great risks and challenges of various natures (geopolitical, security, economic and social). The growing number of institutional and associate members is an indicator of the regional and international legitimacy gained by the initiative: Starting off in 2006 with 9 member institutions from 7 Arab countries and 8 international organizations, the GIFT-MENA network brings together today more than 58 members from 19 Arab countries, in addition to 17 regional and international partner organizations. It was therefore able to offer strategic networking and broad opportunities for partnership-building among public sector training schools and regional and development stakeholders. Three new institutes of Finance were established across the region between 2007 and 2011 (Jordan, Palestine and Morocco), in addition to a number of technical assistance requests channeled to the Secretariat from Iraq and the Regional Government of Kurdistan and Libya. GIFT-MENA contributed to improve the policy-making process in the area of capacity development and state modernization in the MENA region by spreading the practices of good professional public management, public policy and governance, in an effort to assist Arab countries in their transition through better public service. It raised regional awareness by showcasing successful experiences and experiments in public administration and governance reform crafted and tested by Arab countries and in addressing development challenges pertinent to their specific needs and aspirations. It was able to become a tool where members find strengths in others’ experiences and source ideas from the international arena. It has become a platform for dialogue, a pool of Arab expertise and a knowledge broker. The experience and knowledge-sharing promoted by the network has helped trigger and advance the rehabilitation of public administration in conflict and post-conflicts environments, such as the Arab countries. Reference is made to ministerial speeches and to evaluation forms filled by beneficiaries, stating that: « The GIFT MENA network… holds a conviction… that public action is a response to the social challenges of our century and a pillar of economic development… »; Marylise LEBRANCHU, Minister of State Reform, Decentralization and Civil Service, France on the occasion of the closing ceremony of the GIFT-MENA Annual Conference in Kuwait, 2014 « … It is an opportunity to rethink our recruitment methods, to discuss and standardize our policies and tools, in an effort to enhance the performance of our administrations. »; Mohamed MOUBDI, Minister of Civil Service and Administrative Modernization, Morocco on the occasion of the opening ceremony of the GIFT-MENA Annual Conference in Kuwait, 2014 “You work to enhance the performance of government services, the development of human capabilities and the promotion of meritocracy; you work for the rule of law, for economic prosperity and for a better public service”; Fuad Siniora, Former Prime Minister of Lebanon, on the occasion of the gala diner of the GIFT-MENA Annual Conference Lebanon, 2009 “I would like to confirm our long-term commitment to supporting the Institute of Finance’s leadership in developing a regional network of schools and training institutions for governance and public administration”; Frannie Leautier, Vice-President of the Worlds Bank Institute, June 2006 “The network provided us with the opportunity to exchange our experiences in all aspects related to public procurement reform… GIFT-MENA is an ambitious and pioneering initiative”; Amin Bin Hassan, Ministry of Finance, Tunisia, following his participation to the exchange visit on Public Procurement Reform to Morocco, 2013 “Following my participation in the Learning Link event, I will consider integrating the three dimensions of sustainable learning in our capacity building plans”; Mohamed Ahmed Swaikit, Director of HR Planning and Development, Central Bank of Sudan, following his participation to the Learning Link in 2013

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The GIFT-MENA initiative is South-born, south-managed and south-owned; which is the principal guarantor of its sustainability. Using dynamic institutional development mechanisms, the network was able to adapt and self-renew while maintaining coherence and have its strategy shared by all members. Throughout the years, it has adapted its mission to the global and regional changes and moved from addressing Public Financial Management issues at first to facilitate governance and whole-of-government approaches. Demand for showcasing the GIFT-MENA as a success story and model for South-South Cooperation was raised at the Annual Meeting 2014. Representatives of international organizations such as the World Bank and the OECD that were attending the meeting expressed their interest in seeing the network’s experience documented and published to serve as case story for similar emerging initiatives, for example in Eastern Asia. Replication at national, regional or international levels can also be facilitated by the provision of technical assistance by the GIFT-MENA Secretariat. Just as the Secretariat as benefited from technical advice during the set-up phase of the GIFT-MENA network, it has the capacity and the ability to share its expertise with peers, in three languages (English, French and Arabic) The initiative has already witnessed demands for replication at national levels with the creation of similar networks of civil service training schools. For instance, a National Training Network gathering all public sector training operators was launched in Lebanon in September 2013, under the flagship of the Office of Minister for Administrative Reform (OMSAR). In this case in particular, the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan is a member of the network. Making use of its accumulated expertise, it assists OMSAR in managing the Secretariat, in developing the network’s institutional framework and programs, and in mobilizing financial resources. Such national networks are expected to benefit directly and indirectly to the GIFT-MENA network by lobbying for HR and training modernization at a national level and constitute pressure groups to advance regulatory reform on training and help create depoliticized and meritocratic public services.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
In less than a decade, GIFT-MENA was able to propose and establish a new model of South-South cooperation that emphasizes mutual benefit and solidarity as well as cost-effectiveness in the Arab world. Lessons learned from the initiative entail: 1. Privilege a flexible operating framework (the network is an informal platform based on the principle of “walk-in/walk-out”) and keep autonomy in management: This allowed for the initiative to remain demand-driven and to adapt to changing and challenging political, institutional and operational environments . 2. Don’t be afraid to experiment and to be proactive: The network drove its own institutional agenda and despite financial and human challenges, it was able to develop its capability to self-organize, act and produce substantive and sustainable outputs. 3. Promote home-grown solutions: The network puts forward reform solutions developed and tested by Arab countries and government institutions, with the participation of regional and international partners. This provides access to experiences that respect the cultural specificities of the Arab region and offers a critical look on what a good practice should be. 4. Innovate in learning: The GIFT-MENA has worked to offer its members a training supply that responds to their needs and is not extrapolated from past demand. Developed modules follow an innovative training methodology that is “problem-solving” rather than “disciplinary” driven. They promote a practical and hands-on approach that includes role play, case studies and experience-sharing, to help beneficiaries do things differently or in a new form in their administrations. 5. The relation between the initiative and members works in two ways: A good effective network would end with positive impacts on the members, and reciprocally efficient and active public institutions are the main driver toward a successful networking experience. Efforts in both directions must be deployed at the same time.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Lamia Moubayed Bissat
Title:   Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   009611425147/009611426860
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   contact@if.org.lb  
Address:   512 Corniche Al Naher
Postal Code:   16-5870
City:   Beirut
State/Province:   Beirut
Country:  

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